View Full Version : Higher Buildings (and Prices) in Harlem

December 3rd, 2003, 07:20 AM
December 3, 2003


Higher Buildings (and Prices) in Harlem


Spurred in part by the prospect of zoning changes that would allow construction of taller residential buildings, the price of empty lots in Harlem has almost doubled in the last year or so, according to a study by Massey Knakal Realty Services.

"It's very unusual for prices to double within a 12-month period, which is what has occurred," said Robert A. Knakal, the chairman of Massey Knakal.

One reason for the price increase, Mr. Knakal said, is that "there is so much attraction for all types of property in Harlem, but particularly for development properties, because of the lack of availability below 96th Street." He added, "Although prices have gone up in Harlem, they're still relatively inexpensive compared with the rest of Manhattan."

Massey Knakal's study measures lot value on the basis of each square foot of building that can be built on it. "The buildable square foot in Harlem averages $67," Mr. Knakal said, "and south of 96th Street, we've seen development land selling for anywhere from $150 to $200 per buildable square foot."

Shimon Shkury, director for sales at Massey Knakal, cited several reasons for the higher prices in Harlem. Demand for housing in the area has increased, and land suitable for relatively high-end development is sought after.

In addition, a rezoning approved this year by the City Planning Commission and the New York City Council for parts of Harlem has increased the prospective value of land on major avenues. The changes apply in East Harlem from 100th to 124th Streets between Lexington Avenue and the East River and in Central Harlem from 110th to 124th Streets between Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard and Morningside Drive.

"The rezoning allows the buildable footage to be calculated based on 6.02 FAR, compared with 3.44 FAR, which is approximately 75 percent more to build," Mr. Shkury said. The acronym FAR stands for floor area ratio, which is a method for calculating the maximum building space available on a specific lot; it is determined by determining a lot's area and then multiplying by a numerical factor, in this case 6.02 or 3.44. A higher factor means that buildings can have more stories.

Mr. Shkury said the rezoning was heavily supported by the Harlem Community Boards 10 and 11, and the change had an almost immediately noticeable effect: "We just sold a shell along Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 115th and 116th Street for $975,000. That same building was sold earlier this year for less than $700,000 before the investors knew about the zoning change."

He offered several additional examples of increasing prices of lots in Harlem in the last year or two. A lot at 248 West 116th Street that sold for $470,000 in October 2001 sold for $670,000 this May, a 42 percent increase. Another at 158 East 100th Street that sold for $150,000 in June 2002 sold for $557,000 this April, more than three and a half times the earlier price. A lot at 304-08 East 109th Street that sold for $233,000 in February 2002 sold for $620,000 last December, an increase of 166 percent.

Last year 16 vacant lots in Harlem were sold for an average of $213,375, and this year from January through mid-May, the latest period for which figures have been collected, six vacant lots were sold at an average price of $662,833. Mr. Shkury said that only part of the increase could be attributed to the lots being larger or in more desirable locations.

The most common buyers are developers who want to build apartments, in some cases rental units and in other cases condominiums. The owner of a lot at 158 East 100th Street had planned to develop 11 residential units on the lot, but he sold it last April because he was involved with a much larger development in Queens. Three months later, Massey Knakal said, the lot attracted an offer of $800,000, about $240,000 above the sale price. The new owner did not want to sell because he wanted to develop the property.

Nonprofit organizations are also buying vacant lots to build middle-income housing, churches or mosques. Individuals are buying in hopes of speculating in the market.

No exact number of vacant lots is available, but Massey Knakal estimates that there are about 1,000 in northern Manhattan.

Mr. Shkury said that some lots were in established areas below 116th Street along Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglass Boulevards. In some completed condominium projects, including Eliza Court, he added, units sold for $400 to $500 a square foot, causing developers to think about additional opportunities.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

December 3rd, 2003, 10:30 AM
Amazing. Though logical that the push from "downtown" would cause uptown to rise, but who would have thought this 5-10 years ago. The city just keeps getting better and better.

December 15th, 2003, 01:57 PM
A 6.02 FAR still seems rather low. That would make for 8-12 story buildings max. With 30 story buildings covering the entire lot, the FAR on the Upper East and West sides is much greater.

What is the whole point of the FAR in the first place?

TLOZ Link5
December 15th, 2003, 03:02 PM
A 6.02 FAR still seems rather low. That would make for 8-12 story buildings max. With 30 story buildings covering the entire lot, the FAR on the Upper East and West sides is much greater.

What is the whole point of the FAR in the first place?

To promote setback structures which allow light and air to reach the streets. I think the FAR (Floor to Area Ratio) means how many times a project can multiply the square footage of its site—a building with a 10 FAR can have ten times the floor space of its plot. To build taller buildings, developers will have to set their buildings back from the streetwall and/or have their buildings occupy less than the entire site.